CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3290
TitleRobert Laws of Livingstonia, missionary and Amelia Laws, nurse: papers
Datec 1872 - c 1975
Extent4 boxes: 1.32 linear metres
Creator NameLaws, Robert; of Livingstonia (1851 - 1934), missionary and physician
Laws; Amelia (1886 - 1978), nurse
Administrative HistoryRobert Laws (1851 - 1934) was leader of the Free Church (later United Free Church) of Scotland's Livingstonia Mission in northern Malawi and north-eastern Zambia, from 1878 until 1927. After attending primary school in Aberdeen, he was apprenticed as a cabinet maker, with the intention that he should follow his father into the trade. During this time he attended evening classes in the city, and subsequently matriculated at Aberdeen University, where he studied arts and medicine, graduating MA, 1872. After graduation he began a course of study at the United Presbyterian Seminary, Edinburgh, and took medical classes at Glasgow University and Anderson College, Glasgow. He was awarded the MB ChB degree at Aberdeen in 1875.

When the Free Church of Scotland planned a mission to the shores of Lake Malawi, c 1875, Laws sought support from his United Presbyterian church to second him to the venture. He was ordained for missionary work by United Presbyterian Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1875 and joined the new mission as a medical officer, and second in command to Lieutenant E.D. Young. Young left the mission after two years, and Laws replaced him as head of the mission in 1878. He remained in post until retirement in 1927, and during his 50 years of service built a solid and stable base from which many other local and regional church, educational and social projects were successfully initiated. A centre for the mission's activities in Malawi and north-eastern Zambia, based upon Stewart's Lovedale, was founded after 1891 on Khondowe Mountain, and by 1894 all of Malawi was served by a Presbyterian mission. Laws himself, played an important role in the foundation of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in 1924, and the creation of a comprehensive primary school network for Zambia and Malawi. After the First World War he encouraged the mission's members to form Native Associations, which later, in 1938, became the Nyasaland African National Congress. Publications include a translation of the New Testament into Nyanja, the English - Nyanjia dictionary, and collections for the English - Gunda dictionary.

Laws married Margaret Troup Gray in 1879, and they had eight children, but only one daughter, Amelia, survived, born in 1886. Amelia was educated in Edinburgh and worked as a nurse-masseuse in Europe in the First World War. She graduated MB ChB in 1930, and later studied and practised osteopathy in London. She retired to Edinburgh but continued to practise osteopathy there into her nineties. She died in 1978.

For further details and additional references see 'Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology', ed. by Nigel M. de S. Cameron (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark Ltd., 1993) pp 473 - 474.
Custodial HistoryThe records were acquired by the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, under the directorship of Professor Andrew Walls, Department of Divinity, University of Aberdeen. They were transferred to Special Libraries and Archives when the Centre moved to Edinburgh c 1987, together with evidence heard at the World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh, 1910, (MS 3291), and the papers of Alexander Caseby, missionary (MS 3289).
SourceDeposited in the University in Oct 1987, by the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, University of Aberdeen (later, New College, Edinburgh).
DescriptionPersonal papers of Robert Laws and his daughter, Amelia Laws, c 1878 - c 1960. Much of the collection comprises correspondence relating to Law's work at Livingstonia Mission, but there is also a large series of personal letters from his wife Margaret, and copy letters of Amelia Laws received whilst nursing in Europe during the First World War. Later items include printed papers and newspaper articles relating to Laws' work and the Mission. Some may have been for some years in the possession of Margaret Hansford, the daughter of Alexander Caseby who worked in Livingstonia in the 1920s (see MS 3289)
AccrualsNone expected.
ArrangementListing in progress - papers sorted by subject and correspondence arranged by author.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
Related MaterialPapers of Rev. Alexander Caseby (1898 - 1991), missionary in Malawi, 1922 - 1929 (MS 3289). These papers include Rev Caseby's memoirs of Livingstonia mission, Malawi.

Papers of Amelia Nyasa Laws, Lothian Health Services Archive, University of Edinburgh (GB 0239 GD 18). These papers largely relate to her medical work in iridology, osteopathy, and other medical specialties, but include some early 20th century personal papers.
Related RecordMS 3289

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